• Prowler protection: Your car isn't as safe as you thought



    BELLEVUE, Wash. - It’s not your purse, your wallet, cellphone, or even a promising-looking bag left on the back seat. Though you shouldn’t leave those in the car either.

    As Bellevue police continue “Operation Radcliffe,” rounding up suspects connected to nearly 150 known vehicle prowls at parks and trailheads, “The message we’re putting out there is: lock, take, leave,” Seth Tyler with Bellevue Police Department said. “Lock your car, take your valuables with you, or leave them at home. Don’t think that you can leave them in your car. Don’t think that you can hide them in your trunk or under your seat because these guys are watching people do that exact thing.”

    In one case, undercover officers watched suspects toss around a football at the Coal Creek Park trailhead, all the while watching where people placed items in their vehicles. When the lot was clear, the suspects moved to break into the vehicles. Officers interrupted the suspects in that case.

    But police can’t watch every parking lot. Thieves in this crime ring made off with $200,000 from credit cards and cash stolen from vehicles around the region.

    Tyler says, “One of the things that allows them to do this is they know they can go into pretty much any parking lot, at any park, and find a wallet or a purse or something of value they can turn into cash.”



    Lock, take, leave. That’s pretty straightforward advice and everyone should already do this. But is there anything else people should be doing to protect themselves?

    “Absolutely … If you leave a garage door opener, or you leave your vehicle registration, or any other item [with personal information],” says Bellevue Police Captain Marcia Harnden. “Especially at a movie theater. For a long time we saw car prowls at movie theaters where they knew you’d be in there for a few hours. Then they’d go break into your car, take your registration, and go burglarize your house.”

    With an address in-hand and garage door access, burglars can waltz right into your home.

    It’s a safe bet for thieves. While you’re away munching popcorn, your own car pulls into the garage; even the neighbors won’t suspect you’re being robbed.

    Even though Bellevue police are picking off prowlers connected to this crime ring, Captain Harnden acknowledges they can’t solve every case or nab every thief.

    So don’t forget about that garage door opener and all documents with personally identifying information. Thieves can also leverage those documents to steal your identity.

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